Right Wing ‘News’ Site Drudge Report a ‘Pipeline’ for Russian Propaganda, Shocking Study Finds
The Drudge Report Loves Russian Propaganda Sites Enough to Link to Them 400 Times In Five Years
Drudgery Drudge Report has always had a certain knack for right-wing propaganda. Perhaps not the “Obama-is-a-Kenyan-ISIS-sympathizer-who-gives-back-alley-abortions-to-gay-frogs” propaganda you’ll find on, say, Breitbart or InfoWars or World Net Daily, but a more “legitimatized” kind of propaganda. They aggregate those wacky right-wing conspiracy sites, but they aggregate real news sites too. Drudge Report is basically the boot before it hits the dog poo.
But according to a new study from Media Matters, The Drudge Report is infatuated with a different type of propaganda, too… specifically of the Russian variety. Queue the campy Yakov Smirnoff jokes. In Soviet Russia, Drudge Report Reads YOU!
In their study, Media Matters found that Drudge Report had linked to Russian propaganda websites nearly 400 times since 2012. Those websites included gems like RT, Sputnik News, and TASS, all three of which are government-controlled Russian propaganda websites developed for English-speaking audiences.
More troubling: there was a sharp uptick in 2015, with 79 links that year. And that number rose in 2016, too, with 122 links to those three websites during the election year alone. RT.com had the most links of any of the three websites, followed distantly by Sputnik News, while TASS only received a tiny sliver of the shares.
Was Drudge Report Using Russian Propaganda to Help Sway the Election?
Now for the question we all want answered: Was Drudge Report using Russian propaganda in an effort to help sway the election? Was this surge of Russian propaganda related to the election, or is this just the new modus operandi for Matt Drudge and his merry gang of misfits?
Well, if Russian propaganda is the new normal for Drudge Report, these trends would’ve continued into 2017. But according to Media Matters’ study, Drudge has only linked to 45 Russian propaganda sites this year. That’s a pretty big dip from the 122 in 2016 and the 79 in 2015.
And then there’s the actual content Drudge was aggregating. The articles from those Russian propaganda websites circled around election topics popular amongst conservatives, like Hillary Clinton’s emails, debunked myths about Google favoring Clinton over Trump through their search results, and wacky conspiracy theories about ultra-secret Illuminati-like cabals.
Blended into these scenes of nuttery were sprinkles of pro-Putin propaganda. And given The Drudge Report’s popularity in right-wing circles, it should come as no surprise that so many conservatives have expressed their infatuation with Putin and hailed him as a “strong leader” in recent years.
What Impact Did Any Of This Have on 2016?
Of course, you could easily argue that none of the people who frequent Drudge Report or other like-minded websites would have ever voted for Hillary Clinton, or any other Democrat for that matter, to begin with. But those readers aren’t the real concern.
We all know people who don’t follow politics. They might catch the big headlines, but for the most part, they ignore what’s happening in Washington and only start to mildly care when general elections roll around.
Those sorts of people rely on their more politically-savvy friends for information. That information will of course be biased. But when it’s also infused with propaganda from a country the United States has had a frosty relationship with for many decades, it starts to look pretty ugly.
We might never really know the full extent of whatever impact Russian propaganda efforts had on the 2016 general election. But thanks to Media Matters, we do know one thing for sure: The Drudge Report certainly helped that propaganda reach a much bigger audience than it would have otherwise. And Vladimir Putin? I think it’s safe to say he owes Matt Drudge a dinner and a foot rub.
Featured image courtesy of BPA via Getty Images
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